Friday, October 17, 2008

Max Payne

By Reymundo Salao

MAX PAYNE is a hardboiled police detective who lost his wife and new-born child to homicidal junkies in a murder incident. Constantly scouring for information as to who was really behind his family’s death, he stumbles upon a case that involves crazy witnesses who claim they’ve seen angels, and a new drug which was supposedly developed for the military. When his former partner turns up dead, Max becomes the prime suspect and is not only being hunted down by the police, but also being hunted down by mysterious people who seek to stop him from his investigation.

MAX PAYNE is the movie adaptation of the popular third-person shooter game of the same title. Many people refer to the Max Payne game as a rip-off of everything cool about action movies during the 1990's: from the slow-motion, ballistic ballet style of John Woo’s (specifically based on his signature movies such as "The Killer" and "Hardboiled") and also of other Hongkong movies, to the bullet-time visual style pioneered in “The Matrix” The irony being that this is a movie based on a game which is based on a number of movies. Putting it in a simplified manner is to say that this is a more stylized version of Dirty Harry.

MAX PAYNE would probably not please fans that prefer the movie to have an almost non-stop hardcore action from start to finish. But you will actually realize that the movie did not sell out because they did not do this; instead, the movie takes its time and paces well enough to respect the storyline that it presents. Audiences must be reminded that this is Max Payne: THE MOVIE, and by stating that, one must understand that this movie will not have gunfights every three minutes. Max Payne clears up the distinction between movie & video game. But don’t get me wrong; when the action kicks in, the action proves to be hardcore and ballistically kick ass. And speaking of ballistic, the sound of the movie is superb. The soundtrack and the sound effects stand out most especially in gunfight scenes. I could not tell what exact model of gun Max is carrying, or if such a model does exist, but when it shoots, it makes a beautifully explosive gunblast that I could only describe as a pocket howitzer.

The movie is graced by a plethora of familiar celebrity faces. We find the hot-as-hell delicious vixen goddess Olga Kurylenko in a brief steamy seduction scene (she will be seen next in the new James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace"), then playing her sister Mona Sax is the very alluring Mila Kunis, the constantly familiar Donal Logue as Alex Balder, Beau Bridges and Chris O'Donnell also appear. On the other hand, former rapper Ludacris (who's also seen in other movies) has a role and shows us that his acting talent is barely satisfactory, while singer Nelly Furtado, who also appears, shows us that HER acting talent doesn’t really count as "talent". Mark Wahlberg is swiftly shaking off his prettyboy image with this movie. He's been doing it ever since he did movies like Four Brothers and The Departed, probably chasing after the throne of Jason Statham in the most bad-ass action hero category. And indeed he does so well in this movie, where he effectively plays a guy who seems like he’s always on a warpath. A real sunshine killer.

Director John Moore and his crew did a great job in the movie. The movie is visually exhilarating, and the monochromatic look it has is beautiful, and because of this, it has a sense of noir cop movie feel, the element of Dirty Harry that many cop movies have copied, and the same storyline of vengeance-creates-vigilante reminiscent of Death Wish and a hundred more films. Obviously the storyline of Max Payne is never original. There were even many moments wherein the storytelling falters, but not in a blatant obvious and sloppy manner. Most of the errors and shortcomings of this movie are the type that mostly critics would notice and nitpick. Although I expected the action of the movie to be twice as hardcore violent and as rated-R as it should be, the movie delivers satisfactorily well enough. The movie knows very well that it isn’t perfect, it succeeds in giving audiences an action flick explosive enough and a story interesting enough, only to entertain. Action-lovers and cop movie lovers will most especially love this ass-kicking flick. A single gun-imitating thumb up for this one.

SPOILER: If you're turned-off by the angel scenes in the trailer, well, this isnt Hellblazer Constantine, the angels are just drug-induced hallucinations

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